Box office 2018: A Year of No Flops?

Box office 2018: A Year of No Flops?

There have been some really big movie hits so far this year! We track the “most profitable” movies in this IMDb list:

2018 The Measured Circle’s Most Profitable Movies

That’s based on dogro (domestic gross) versus the production budget.

The most profitable movies by percentage don’t tend to be the most expensive to make…but this year, certainly, some expensive movies have been worth the investment.

  • Black Panther has an estimated production budget of $200 million…and has received our “Golden” award, for dogroing at least three times that. That’s not at all common for movies which cost over $100m to make, although it does happen (especially for Disney/Marvel movies)
  • Avengers: Infinity War, with an estimated production budget of $300 million, has profited over $300 million

Another category in the past few years has been relatively low budget movies which go on to break $100 million dogro. This year, A Quiet Place has a reported budget of $17 million, and has received our “Triple Golden” award (its dogro is more than 900 percent of its production budget).

However, something which has particularly stood out to me this year is the absence of what we call “Underperformers”: movies which dogro less than 50% of their production budgets.

After the Fourth of July weekend, there weren’t any.

While you might have guessed that A Wrinkle in Time, Rampage, or Ready Player One might have been on that list, they’ve all dogroed more than 50%.

Let’s compare that to other recent years.

2017: 2018 is continuing the trend of 2017, which had no underperformers at the end of the year.


Underperformer Sub-40s (budget at least $40.0m):

Gods of Egypt $31.1m (reported budget: $140.0m) | USA release date: 02/26/16 The Finest Hours $27.6m (reported budget: $80.0m) | USA release date 01/29/16 Ben-Hur $26.4m (reported budget: $100.0m) | USA release date 08/19/16 Free State of Jones $20.8m (reported budget: $50.0m) | USA release date 06/24/16 Keeping Up with the Joneses $14.9m (reported budget: $40.0m) | USA release date 10/21/16


Underachiever Sub-40s (prodbud at least $40.0m)

Seventh Son: $17.2m (reported budget: $95.0m) Blackhat: $7.9m (reported budget: $70.0m) Mortdecai: $7.7m (reported budget: $60.0m) The Last Witch Hunter $27.1m (reported budget: $90.0m) Pan $34.8m (reported budget: $150.0m) In the Heart of the Sea: $25.0m (reported budget: $100.0m) Point Break: $28.7m (reported budget: $105m)


Underachiever Sub-40s (budget at least $40.0m):

The Legend of Hercules: $18.8m= (reported budget: $70.0m) 27% I, Frankenstein: $19.1m (reported budget: $65.0m) 29% Transcendence: $23.0m (reported budget: $100.0m) 23% Pompeii $23.2m (reported budget: $100.0m) 23% Winter’s Tale $12.6m (reported budget: $60.0m) 21% Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return $8.5m (reported budget: $70.0m) 12%


We hadn’t by this point made the listing quite so easy to copy and paste, but there were severaL

  • Jack the Giant Slayer (34%)
  • After Earth (47%)
  • White House Down (49% when we last updated it….so it might have made it)
  • The Lone Ranger (42%)

It looks like 2018 proves that 2017 wasn’t a fluke…a flopless fluke, I suppose. 😉

What’s the reason?

My guess is that there are a few factors:

  • Movie studios may have become more cautious about what they release…there is a lot of competition now, and a lot of post-release value in movies. You want something that people want to stream later: a middling box office movie likely will be seen as a reasonable choice to watch at home, but a giant flop might not be
  • There are more data available to use to predict success…and it wouldn’t surprise me if algorithms are part of the prediction process
  • The studios have started to expand the audience, in part by elevating the prominence of the portrayal and production participation of various minority groups (not just ethnic)

I think it’s unlikely that we’ll see years in the near future with very many underperformers.

One other factor to note: the power of the international box office for American releases has been growing. In 2017, we added a “Road Winner” award, for movies that have at least 67% of their box office (according to BoxOfficeMojo) from “foreign” box office. That doesn’t change the Underperformer award, which is based just on dogro…but similar to the post-release value I mentioned above, a movie may do better in foreign markets if it did reasonably well in the domestic market.

I don’t think the strategy of going for “in the ballpark base hits” rather than swinging for the home run and increasing your strikeout risk has reduced innovation. The success of those low budget horror movies is based solidly on innovation…Get Out and A Quiet Place are well-made, original stories.

It will be interesting to see what happens going forward. Oh, and of course, knock virtual wood! 😉

See you in the movies!


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This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the The Measured Circle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

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